Captain Phillip Buckner; The Augusta Historic Jail; The Old Augusta Courthouse
Captain Phillip Buckner was war commissary for Caroline County, Virginia during the Revolutionary War. In exchange for his service, Buckner was granted several thousands acre of land, most of which he later donated. One of these donations included a small plot of land granted to Augusta, Kentucky. The city used it as the site for their new courthouse and jail, the latter of which was completed in 1811. The jail was of notable historical significance for its connection to the Underground Railroad. The area around the jail was a popular crossing point, and sometimes escaped slaves who fled their unjust conditions were imprisoned in the jail and later transported back to the south if they were caught.
Backstory and Context
Philip Buckner was born on May 13, 1747 to John and Sarah Buckner in Port Royal, a small town in Caroline County, Virginia. In 1770, Buckner began courting Tabitha Ann Daniel, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Daniel, eventually marrying her on September 9, 1772. Shortly after his marriage, the Revolutionary War began and Buckner immediately enlisted, becoming war commissary for troops operating out of Caroline County, Virginia, a role in which he was tasked with providing weapons and supplies to troops. At the war's conclusion, Buckner was honored by the Commonwealth of Virginia for his loyalty and dedication to the war effort. In exchange for his service, Buckner was awarded several land grants which amounted to thousands of acres of land. This land included 7,000 acres of land which eventually became Fayette County, Kentucky, as well as what is now present-day Bracken County, Kentucky. Buckner eventually decided to settle on a portion of the land which made up Louisville Kentucky, donating a great deal of his remaining land.
One of these donations included a portion of the land he owned in Bracken county, which he donated to the city of Augusta, Kentucky. This plot of land was a lot which was soon named the Augusta Public Square, and was officially donated to the city in 1801. After its donation, the city began to brainstorm ideas on how to best utilize the land, eventually settling on the construction of a city courthouse which was finished in 1806. Soon after, the city began work on the establishment on a county jail, which was completed in 1811 and named the Bracken County Jail. The courthouse burned in 1848; however, the jail survived and, after the county seat moved shortly afterward, the jail was renamed the Augusta Jail and continued to be used by the city.
The jail was a two story brick and wood building, with the upper floor being reserved for the residence of the jailer and his family and the bottom floor being comprised of multiple holding cells. The jail is of tremendous historical significance not merely because of its connection to Buckner and the beginnings of Augusta, but because of the role it played in the Civil War as well as its ties to the Underground Railroad. The area surrounding Augusta was frequently used as a crossing point for slaves fleeing the unjust treatment they were subjugated to. Sometimes, however, these individuals were caught during their attempt to flee and were held in the Augusta jail until they were transported back to the south, sometimes accompanied by the Bracken county residents who attempted to shelter or aid them. Among those residents who attempted to aid in the operation of the Underground Railroad were James Cripps, a former school teacher, as well as "Doc" Perkins, a free black man nicknamed "Doctor" as a result of his home remedies, and John Fee Jr, an abolitionist who later went on to establish Berea College.
Today, the jail building is still standing; however, it is no longer in use. In 2009, the jail was restored to the best of the city's ability and opened up to tourists.
Augusta Historical Jail. Flickr. . Accessed August 14, 2019. https://www.flickr.com/photos/23711298@N07/11808238824.
History of Augusta. augustaky.com. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://www.augustaky.com/history-of-augusta.
Phillip Buckner. findagrave.com. Accessed August 14, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/59519032/phillip-buckner.